Exploring Walney’s Military Heritage: Interpretation Day

Name of walk Exploring Walney's Military Heritage: Interpretation Day
Date of walk 2016-07-10

On Sunday morning I went along to Furness Golf Club for ‘Exploring Walney’s Military Heritage Interpretation Day’, where we would get together to look at what had been discovered so far. Morecambe Bay Partnership are working in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University on a project to investigate and record the military heritage of Walney Island. The team consisted of Dr. Ben Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Heritage; Dr. Sam Edwards, Senior Lecturer in History; Amy Walling, Postgraduate Researcher; Louise Martin MBP Cultural Heritage Officer and local volunteers and military experts.

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The morning of the Interpretation Day was spent going over what we found on our recent 'Investigating and Recording Days'. This included looking at the computer 3D photogrammetry model of the underground stores near to Walney Lighthouse, which were produced from a series of photos that Ben took. The 3D model was very impressive. After lunch and discussions about what we shall do in the future, we headed off for a tour of the former Coastguard Tower given by its new owner, Howard. Photo Louise Martin.

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The tower has stood empty for about seven years, having been previously used as a coastguard lookout station. It was originally built around 1911 as an observation tower for the coastal defence system and as part of the former Fort Walney artillery battery (now demolished) which occupied the adjacent land. The new owners plan to convert it into their home. They plan to keep the outside unchanged except for the addition of an external staircase and lift.

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Next to the tower is a Cold War Nuclear Bunker. I cannot resist the opportunity to go and take a look!

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Howard lends me a torch. It is pitch black down there!

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It is just one main room. There is a small cupboard sized room that contains a chemical toilet. The room is very well preserved. Former Coastguard, Dennis Laird told me, via Facebook, that the last time he was in the bunker there were bunk beds in there too.

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The camera flash makes the room seem bright, but the only illumination was the torch on the table and a shaft of light from the surface.

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Brendan and Howard keep the entrance open as I ascend back up.

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The view from the top of the tower. Unfortunately today's visibility wasn't great. Ben and Sam tour the area around the tower. Behind them in the distance is BAE Systems' Devonshire Dock Hall, where they build nuclear submarines.

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Looking south.

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Looking out to sea. The metal shed below belongs to the Golf Club.

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View north. Today you can barely see Blackcombe.

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The wooden Coastguard Lookout Point.

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Louise, Brendan and Amy.

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A closer view of the North End.

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Louise's photo of me taking my photos.

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Inside the Lookout Point.

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One of the floors below.

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The steep stairs dominate the rooms.

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Louise about to descend.

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The small external staircase is a bit overgrown by brambles. Risk Assessments? Pah!

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Amy, Sam, Ken and Ben.

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Charlie and Matt with his electric bike.

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Louise and Howard.

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Brendan, Sam, Ben and Amy with Howard, the owner, and his family. Photo Louise Martin.

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In the undergrowth Howard has found what he thinks is the remains of a Dome Trainer.

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A few of us head off to the North End. We drive the car as far along the beach as we can go, before heading by foot towards the North End Nature Reserve to see some of its military heritage. Matt, Charlie, Brendan, Louise and Richard.

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The site contains the remains of Air Gunnery training. One of the large butts of the gun range.

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We go first to the rifle butts and associated trench system. Matt walks us along the trenches, which are very shallow. They are possibly training trenches.

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One of the trenches, they are difficult to spot among the grass tussocks, but easy to follow once you're in one.

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The group in the trench terrain.

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I am stood on one of the rifle butts looking back towards the gun range.

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Trench discussions.

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Louise's photo.

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The part of the gun range where the targets were raised. The concrete barrier was for protection of the target personnel.

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Graffiti on the wall.

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The target mechanism was still here in 2012, but has since been removed.

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There was also a moving target trainer here which involved a static aircraft gun turret on a chassis, and a small gauge rail track which would transport a model wooden aircraft on a trolly around the turret in a loop, giving the gunnery cadet experience in firing at a moving target. All that remains is the collapsed concrete protective wall.

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Charlie explains how it all worked. Photo Louise Martin.

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The rest of the remains.

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A bit more!

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The area is a bit overgrown which makes spotting the remains more difficult. We call it a day and walk back along the beach, just as the forecast rain starts to fall but thankfully doesn't last very long.

Another excellent and informative day! I never thought I’d spend part of Sunday in a Nuclear Bunker!

The Morecambe Bay Archaeology Festival runs from Saturday 16th July until Sunday 31st July which includes Lectures at The Forum, Guided Tours of Piel Island, Walney’s Military Sites, Birkrigg Stone Circle, Jenny Brown’s Point and lots more. Everything is free. For details go to www.morecambebay.org.uk/events

Jo.

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